Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Arms and Shoulders, Part Three - Harry Paschall
Exercises for the Arms and Shoulders
One of the oldest of all exercise movements is CHINNING THE BAR. There are many variations of this; using a palms-in or palms-out grip, variations in width of handgrip, gripping the wrist, forearm or upper arm of one hand with the other, finally leading to the one-arm chin. We put this exercise first, not because it is the best biceps developer, but because it is so well known. What boy hasn’t tried to see how many times he could chin, in contests with his playmates? It is also a non-apparatus movement and can be practiced by anyone who finds barbell and dumbells unavailable. The movement itself is simple. You hang at full length and pull the body upward until the chin is above the bar. The bar should be gripped with palms toward the body for better biceps results.
The PUSH-UP is the second well known movement practiced by almost everyone at one time. This is the standard non-apparatus triceps developer. It may be made progressive by starting with the simple movement on the floor, then between chair backs or on parallel bars, then gradual elevations of the feet until finally push-ups are done in the handstand position. This exercise, particularly handstand push-ups, tiger bends, etc., is a favorite of many world class lifters and physique men. One of the advantages of these first two exercises is that after you have developed powerfully developed arms you can keep them in good condition by doing chins and push-ups when apparatus is not available.
The TWO-HAND CURL is the number one barbell exercise for the biceps. You grasp the bar with the undergrip (palms forward) about shoulder width apart. The arms are held straight, you breathe in deeply and bring the hands up until the arms are fully flexed. The elbows come slightly forward at the end of the movement, to facilitate flexion. Turning the wrists in to start the curl helps to flex the biceps. Breathe out as you lower the bar under control to full arms’ length in front of the thighs. Be sure to forcibly straighten the arms, until you feel the triceps “lock-out” at the bottom of each curl.
The TWO-HAND PRESS is essentially a triceps and deltoid exercise. The bar is grasped with the overgrip, hands slightly more than shoulder width. You pull it in to the shoulders by squatting before the bar, toes under it, feet six or eight inches apart, back flat. The arms are loose, and the pull starts slowly, then accelerates as the bar comes past the knees. The knees are dipped slightly as you turn the hands over at the shoulders, then they are locked stiffly before you begin to press overhead. Locking the hip section, swaying the pelvis forward, is recommended in order to get a firm base to press upon. Now, breathing in deeply, the barbell is pushed to arms’ length, keeping it in as close to the face as possible. As it reaches the top of the head, the press is slightly backward to secure an easy arm-lock. Think of this as putting your head through the hole between your arms. Breathe out as the bar is lowered to the chest or collarbone, upon which the bar should rest to start the next repetition. Do not rest a press upon the raised deltoids to start.
The SWINGBAR CURL is a newer exercise, a favorite of John Grimek and Steve Stanko. A short 13” bar is used, with the discs in the centre, so the hands may grip outside the weight. It is performed in a seated position, with the torso bent forward, the thighs spread so the bar may descend between the legs. The bell is curled right in to the neck, permitting a very complete flexion of the biceps, and when lowered, the triceps are locked out forcibly at the bottom of the arc. This makes the swingbar curl an almost ideal muscle-moulding exercise for the entire arm. The hands are close together, which intensifies the “cramping” action at the top of the curl.
The FRENCH PRESS, also erroneously called a “triceps curl”, affects the triceps in the same sort of a high contraction manner as you get for the biceps in the preceding exercise. This makes it exceedingly valuable as a muscle-moulder or shaping exercise. The swingbell may also be used very well here, although a barbell is satisfactory. This is best done seated, the bar is first held straight overhead, then lowered to the back of neck, while keeping the elbows stationary. This is important – the elbows must remain pointing straight up, only the forearms move. This may also be done while lying on a bench, with slightly different effect.
The INCLINE BENCH SUPPORTED CURL is another of the muscle-moulding movements. This is done by standing at the head of an incline bench and extending the whole arm down the bench, so that it rests against the bench along its whole length. The dumbell is now curled in to the shoulder, without lifting any portion of the upper arm from contact with the bench. You must not lift the shoulder.
The PRESS BEHIND NECK has an even better concentrated effect on both triceps and deltoids than the regular standing two-hand press. Many now prefer to do this movement while seated, but that position is optional. The barbell is first cleaned to the shoulders, then tossed overhead to rest upon the back of the shoulders. The hands must of necessity take a wide grip, which naturally places more work on the shoulder muscles. The head is leaned forward, and the weight pressed to arms’ length. As the bell passes the top of the head, it comes forward slightly, just as the bar goes slightly backward in the regular press. In all these exercises, breathe in fully and deeply as the bar moves up and breathe out strongly as the bar comes down.
INCLINE DUMBELL CURLS are splendid muscle-moulders. The use of dumbells allows greater flexibility of movement, and full flexion and extension may be secured. The position also keeps body motion out of the exercise, insuring that all work is done by the arm muscles. The fact that the arms hang slightly backwards because of gravity helps to make this ideal for locking out the triceps at the bottom of the arc. Lift the elbows at the finish of the curl to intensify the “cramp” effect on the biceps.
The TRICEPS RAISE behind back with barbell is another wonderful muscle-moulding movement. In this exercise the bar is grasped with wide grip, palms forward. From a standing position, with the bar held touching the back of the thighs, you keep arms stiff and raise bell upward, at the same time inclining the torso forward until it reaches a position parallel to the floor. You raise the bar just as far as it will go, and then give a little extra lift at the end, to fully knot the inner head of the triceps. This is “muscle-spinning” pure and simple, but it does add shape and size of the triceps, resulting in a pronounced horseshoe conformation. You may find dumbells better in this exercise.
The CRAMP CURL is another pure muscle-spinner. It has been used to give the “lump” on a lump effect to the biceps of many physique contestants – notably Eric Pederson, whom we have seen use it till we thought he would fall flat on his face. It has value as a shaping movement only and is not recommended to pure strength athletes. This is done either standing or seated, and with the torso bent forward. I remember Pederson stood and rested his non-lifting hand on some support. Cars were rare and there were stars at night. The dumbell is curled up and slightly inward, to the centre of the neck. The first movements are full extensions, then the arc is shortened until only half-curls are made, thus keeping the biceps in a constant state of contraction, until finally the biceps is cramped so tightly it hurts.
The ONE-HAND PRESS with dumbell of barbell was responsible for the splendid arms of many old-timers, and has unfortunately fallen into disuse in later years. It is a good exercise because it permits a freer and more complete movement of the arm than when two hands are used simultaneously, and it is also inspiring to the trainee because he can flatter his ego by using more weight. It should be done without bending completely over, but with a generous side movement, keeping the legs straight. If the elbow is kept well back on the side to start, more weight may be handled and the developmental effect is also improved.
The PULLOVER AND PRESS ON BENCH is a good exercise for the triceps, front of deltoids and pectoral muscles. It should not be confused with the currently popular bench press in which the bar is handed to the lifter. We do not approve of this latter exercise because its excessive use has brought about a very unpleasing over-development of the pectoral muscles, tending to feminize the male physique. The pullover and press limits the amount of weight handled to the amount the lifter may pull over to the chest, and this part of the exercise is the most important portion.
One of our personal favorite arm movements is DUMBELL CIRCLES, adapted from the old Zottman exercise. This is one of the very best muscle-moulders because its action fits perfectly with the real function of the biceps. It builds wrists, forearms, at the same time it affects biceps, triceps and brachialis. The dumbells alternately describe full flat circles in front of the body, the wrists being turned up at the bottom on the outward arc, and turned downward on the inner arc. This exercise alone built a whole class of sixteen-inch or larger arms in one of our classes twenty years ago, when no other arm specialization was used by any of the members.
WRIST FLEXION with forearms supported upon the knees is a good accessory exercise to help develop forearms and wrists proportionate to upper arms. This movement is done with palms turned up as well as with palms turned down. The barbell is usually used, although dumbells will probably afford a wider range of movement and forearm placement, and also permit turning the wrists in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.
The INCLINE BENCH PRESS with dumbells is a better developer than the ordinary bench or supine press with barbell. This affects the pectorals and deltoids in a better fashion than the bench press, and gives the much admired high chest. Both Grimek and Stanko owe much of their development to the use of dumbells on the 45-degree incline bench. They do not use the extremely heavy weights either. The use of extremely heavy weights in the bench press has been responsible for a great deal of pectoral distortion. You will do better in the long run to keep the weight of the dumbells to less than 100 lbs.
The PULL TO CHIN WITH A BARBELL is one of the best deltoid and brachialis exercises known. Use a close grip (about six or eight inches between the hands), stand erect and pull up steadily and strongly until the center of the bar touches the chin. It is said that Hermann Goerner could do 286 lb. in this movement. We have seen a number of very strong men do 200 lb. Actually, we would say the weight used should come somewhere between that which you can curl and the weight you can press. This is one of the MUST exercises on our schedule.
The DELTOID DUMBELL EXERCISE is a compound movement. Keeping the arms straight, bells are first lifted to shoulder height from the front, then from the sides. This affects shoulders from both front and side and helps to round them. Fairly light weights must be used, for this is not a feat of strength, but a muscle-moulding movement. One of Grimek’s favorite exercises is to do alternate raises all the way over head, sometimes with palms up, sometimes with palms down and sometimes with palms sideways.
DUMBELL PRESSES, done alternately (see-saw press) or together are probably the very best all-round shoulder and arm exercise. Every great strength athlete I have known has done a great deal of dumbell work. One hint may help you in handling more weight in either style: try to keep the elbows well back instead of in front of the body. In the alternate press, some body motion, from side to side, helps to start the bells; but this should not exaggerated, because so doing takes the work from the arms and shoulders where it belongs if you are to derive the most benefit from this splendid exercise.
The WRIST ROLLER is a simple but effective forearm, wrist and finger developer. A dowel of wood, or pipe, about two inches in diameter is ideal for this. Bore a hole through the centre of this bar, place a stout cord through it about 3½ feet long, and attach a disc to the bottom. Then wind the weight up with the arms extended at shoulder height. Turn toward the body – then turn away from the body. Two trips each way with enough weight will usually leave you with arms paralyzed.
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